Bente Birkeland

Bente Birkeland has been reporting on state legislative issues for KUNC and Rocky Mountain Community Radio since 2006. Originally, from Minnesota, Bente likes to hike and ski in her spare time. She keeps track of state politics throughout the year but is especially busy during the annual legislative session from January through early May.

 

Tempers are flaring in the final weeks of Colorado's legislative session and some of the top priorities for lawmakers are in serious jeopardy of failing.

Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City, brought reporters into his office for a hastily called news conference Thursday, April 20, to explain why his bipartisan bill that would ask voters for billions of dollars for transportation projects could soon be dead.

With just weeks left in the legislative session, bills are moving through the statehouse at rapid speed. Topics that have recently generated a lot of interest are teen sexting and oil and gas legislation.

Colorado currently has one of the strictest teen sexting laws in the country. If convicted of sending sexual images with a cellphone, youth between the ages of 14 and 18 could face felony child pornography charges and be ordered to register as a sex offender.

Colorado’s $28.6 billion budget is nearing the end of its legislative journey.

Each year, the six-member, bipartisan Joint Budget Committee crafts a balanced budget before sending it to the House and Senate for amendments. The JBC then has to reconcile those changes.

But in most cases, they go back to the original budget they spend months writing.

This year, the the House and Senate have added about 30 amendments to the so-called “long bill”.

Changlc / Creative Commons

Colorado State Senator Don Coram, who represents southwestern Colorado, voted yes on the 2017 budget even though it makes significant cuts to state hospital funding. But Coram says he hopes to maintain funding for rural hospitals by supporting a separate bill introduced in the Senate on Tuesday. Senate Bill 267 would restructure a fee hospitals pay to help fund healthcare for low-income patients.

Colorado’s budget handily passed the state Senate on March 29. It has bipartisan support and increased four percent compared to the previous year. In many ways the debate was a microcosm of the entire legislative session. It showed lawmakers working together, complex policy issues,  partisan fights and political statements. It is balanced, as required by the state constitution, but reflects how Colorado lacks enough money to fully fund schools, health care and roads.

Many lawmakers are not happy with how the bill turned out.

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